Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is most known for its culinary uses. It’s highly nutritious with an abundance of vitamin A (as carotenoids), vitamin K, and vitamin C. It’s also rich in magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium. The fragrant herb Basil is best known as one of the most versatile herbs to use in Mediterranean and Eastern cooking.
½ cup of fresh chopped basil (or about eight tablespoons) has roughly:
- 2 calories
- 0 fat, protein, sugar or fiber
- 56 milligrams vitamin A (24 percent)
- 88 milligrams vitamin K (108 percent)
- 0.24 milligrams manganese (12 percent)
- 4 milligrams vitamin C (8 percent)
Health Benefits of Basil Leaf
Adaptogen: helps the body adapt to stress and to normalize the harmful effects of stressors on bodily processes.
Antibacterial: The basil essential oil was active against every strain of E-coli it was tested with. It was also shown to have anti-microbial properties that were found to fight mold, yeast, and bacteria.
Anticancer: Clinical studies published in Nutrition and Cancer also show that basil contains phytochemicals, which can help naturally prevent cancer, including chemical-induced skin, liver, oral and lung cancers. Basil is able to increase antioxidant activity, positively alter gene expressions, induce cancerous-cell apoptosis (death of harmful cells) and stop cancerous tumors from spreading.
Antioxidant & Anti-Inflammatory: as an antioxidant and help the body get rid of free radicals. Sweet basil is an excellent source of antioxidants such as phenolic compounds and polyphenols. Research published in 2012 showed that these antioxidants make basil a great choice for helping with inflammatory diseases. Because oxidative stress and inflammation are often present with serious illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, this research is promising for combating the increase in these health problems.
Antimicrobial: against a wide range of bacteria, yeasts, molds and viruses. This means you can add protection against the candida virus and various forms of skin irritations to the long list of proven benefits of basil.
Herbal Remedies with Basil
Calming the Stomach: One-half teaspoon of dried or fresh basil leaf in water can often help soothe indigestion and alleviate feelings of fullness.
Coughing and Colds: chew fresh leaves to calm coughing or make a calming tea of dried basil to help soothe illness.
Facial Steam for Headache: A facial steam with dried basil leaf can help alleviate a headache. Add a tablespoon of dried basil leaf to 2 cups of boiling water in a large pot. Carefully lean over the pot, cover head with a towel and breathe in the steam for 5-10 minutes until headache starts to subside.
Stings and Bites: If you are working outside and get bitten or stung by an insect and don’t have any plantain growing nearby, chewing up a basil leaf and applying to the bite will help relieve the pain and draw out the venom.
Blood Sugar: There is some evidence that basil can help level out blood sugar if consumed regularly and drank as a juice or tea.
Stress Reduction: One herbalist suggests adding 2 cups of strong basil leaf tea to a warm bath to help reduce stress and facilitate relaxation.
Basil Safety & Precautions
While basil is generally considered a safe herb in culinary amounts, medicinal use of basil is considered “possibly unsafe” for children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Keep in mind also that basil essential oil (or any essential oil) is very concentrated and merits special precautions. Because basil could reduce blood pressure, in theory, it could cause low blood pressure. Consult your healthcare professional before taking basil (or any herb) medicinally.